To support students who will be the first in their families to attend and graduate from college, Union College has partnered with the I’m First organization, a national nonprofit created by the Center for Student Opportunity.
I’m first is an online community for first-generation college students and their supporters. As a partner, Union College is included in the I’m First Guide to College, and faculty and staff have access to the organization’s resources for those who advise first-generation students.
The partnership reinforces Union’s commitment to student success through various programs, such as the Union College Experience. This program, implemented in August, brings freshmen to campus two weeks earlier than upperclassmen to promote a smooth transition into college life.
“With the Union College Experience, students gain confidence and a sense of ownership of their education goals,” said Marcia Hawkins, Ph.D., president of the college and first in her family to pursue a college degree. “Our partnership with I’m First will enhance this level of confidence and will provide us with many valuable resources to advance our other programs as well.”
The CSO estimates that 30 percent of students enrolled in postsecondary institutions today are low income, first-generation college students. However, 89 percent of these students will not earn an undergraduate degree within six years, because they drop out of college at four times the rate of peers whose parents have postsecondary degrees.
Along with partners like Union College, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is working with I’m First to help change this trend. Duncan demonstrated support of the organization’s mission through an online video he submitted to help launch the I’m First website in October.
“There is nothing more important you can do for your future than graduating from high school and then going on to graduate from college,” says Duncan in his video message to prospective students. “We’re going to make sure that if you work hard and want to go to college, you’re going to have that opportunity.”
Duncan’s video is one of many in the I’m First collection from first-generation graduates who wish to inspire and offer advice to the next generation of students.
I’m First was developed through a grant sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Facebook, College Summit and King Center Charter School.